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Do you want to learn how to pick up a cat without getting scratched? We discuss the correct method to use when you pick up a cat, whether cats like being picked up or not, and advice for holding a cat.
How to pick up a cat the right way
Here’s how to pick up a cat safely and minimise the risk of getting scratched or bitten.
To start, make sure the cat is relaxed and happy to be handled. Gain the cat’s trust by giving it some attention such as gentle stroking down its back or rubbing behind its ears. You can also speak to the cat in a calm, soothing voice. Once the cat is comfortable, crouch down to their level and get ready to pick it up.
When picking up a cat, place one hand against the cat’s chest under its front legs. Use your other hand to support the hind legs of the cat, ensuring you support its body weight as you scoop it up.
Hold the cat close to your body and lift them gently and smoothly. This will make the cat feel more secure in your arms. Take care to avoid quick, jerky movements when lifting as this may scare the cat.
How to hold a cat properly
Once you are holding the cat, keep it close to your chest or against your shoulder so the cat feels safe and secure. Let their front paws rest comfortably against you. Avoid holding the cat too tight and squeezing them. It is often best to stand still or sit down whilst holding a cat, as walking or any movement can frighten them.
Always encourage children to sit down when holding a cat, and supervise them at all times. It’s too easy for small hands to accidentally drop a cat or hurt it by squeezing too tight. Picking up a cat like a baby and cradling it on its back is usually a bad idea too. Cats in this position can feel vulnerable and in panic or self-defence may bite or scratch.
Make sure you continue to pay attention to the cat’s body language and how they are reacting. Some cats are happy to be held for longer periods, while others will only tolerate you holding them for a short time. If a cat seems anxious or distressed while you are holding it, lower it to the ground and gently place it down.
Do cats like being picked up?
It depends on the cat. Every cat is unique and they have individual preferences about being picked up. Some cats love it when you pick them up, cuddle and carry them around the house. A cat who is comfortable will feel relaxed in your arms, and is likely to purr loudly, knead you or rub their head against yours.
Other cats like to keep their paws on the ground and feel stressed when they are picked up and held. You will feel their body tense, they may growl or hiss and will squirm and struggle to escape from your arms.
There are a few factors that influence whether cats like to be picked up and held:
- Socialisation – Cats who were well-socialised as kittens are likely to be more comfortable when you pick them up as adults.
- Personality – Cats are individuals. Some cats are more affectionate than others and enjoy human interactions. Other cats are fiercely independent and prefer their own space.
- Comfort Level and Trust – Cats who have a positive relationship and strong bond with their humans are more likely to be happy when you hold them.
Our two boys have very different personalities. Charlie loves it when I pick him up. Nothing makes him happier than when I put him across my shoulder and carry him around the house. Max will tolerate being picked up and held, but after a short time he’ll be squirming and ready to jump out of my arms.
It’s important to respect a cat’s boundaries and their personal preferences. If a cat is not happy when held, put them down. If the cat resists being picked up, let them stay on the ground and interact with them in ways that make them more comfortable.
Is it okay to pick up a cat by the scruff?
Mother cats pick up their kittens by the scruff of the neck when they are young, but this is not advised for adults cats. The exception to this is veterinarians or animal rescue workers who may need to scruff a cat in an emergency.
The skin at the back of a cat’s neck is sensitive and picking a cat up this way will cause them pain, injury and anxiety. An adult cat may interpret being picked up by the scruff as a threat and is likely to hiss or growl and lash out at you.
You should now be feeling more confident about how to pick up a cat and the best way to hold them. Remember, every cat is unique. Observe your cat’s body language and how they react to determine if they like it when you pick them up or not. If your cat doesn’t enjoy you holding them, find other ways to bond and interact with them such as interactive play sessions at ground level.
Does your cat like it when you pick them up and hold them? Please share your experiences in the comments.